Kanagawa Accademy of Science and Technology
“Haptic Robots for Medicine, Rehabilitation, and Welfare” Project
 Toward sustainable and high-QOL super mature society

Research Target

Demands for young worker for nursing care is increasing along with the population aging in society. Consequently, young labors to develop sustainable growth in the society tend to shrink. For the problem, there is a huge interest in robotic technology for realizing a human support. However, human support cannot simply be achieved with the robotics technology today, because industrial robots are not capable of performing“soft” and gentle motions. The problems arise from their historical background, they are developed based on technologies for machine tools which are originally subjected to destroy objects.
Project Leader:
Dr. Tomoyuki Shimono
( Assoc. prof. of Yokohama National University ) inverstigation period 2016-2020

 Haptics technology is the key to realize human support. In addition, actuator performance is the most important factor in the better haptics demonstration. For this reason, in KAST project starting from 2015, the researchers have been developing innovative actuators that are capable of performing accurate haptics. In this project, researchers are going to develop highly-practical human support robots for medical, nursing care, and welfare purposes. In addition to the actuator technologies that had been developed in prior projects, fundamental haptics technology, motor control technology, and life support technology are integrated for the research and development.

 Although physical contact and interaction are essential in human support robots, conventional robotics technology did not consider applicable strategies that are durable for practical situations. Dexterous force adjustment is indispensable for the comfortable human support; supporting robots should not go against human will. Supporting robot obtains ability to comprehend a “force sense” with haptics technology. This project aims to introduce haptics technologies in practical medical, nursing care, and welfare applications. The project categorizes the application fields into four different research topics. They are; 1. medical devices and 2. operation support robots in medical fields. 3. rehabilitation support robots for patients with disabilities. 4. life support robots for elder people. Each research topics are gradually/interactively developed in order to accumulate/share techniques and know-hows for the rapid development.

Research topics

Development of haptic medical devices

Medical forceps robots with haptics function will be developed in this topic. The project aims to achieve performance verification examinations and clinical trials within the project term. In medical operations, surgeons need to use surgical strings that are narrower than human hair. They are very easy to torn and sensitive haptic sense is necessary. The device can reinforce the sensitivity of the surgeon.

 

Development of lower limb rehabilitation robot

The research will develop a system which demonstrates the requirements from the patients and the therapists based on collaborative field experiments in daycare centers. The haptic technology enables robots to work according to human intensions by carefully adjusting its motion stiffness to provide comfortable and efficient rehabilitation. The research project will work together with consortium companies to develop soft motion in rehabilitation robots toward commercial use.

 

Development of life support robots

The development of life supports robots mainly focuses on living climate for its application area. In particular, support robots for gait training and (upper) body rising are important actions that elder people are having difficulty.

 

Development of medical operation support robots

Haptic capability is fundamental function to provide safe and intuitive medical support, which conventional systems can not achieve. The project develops prototype robot for medical support, and aims to achieve in vivo clinical examinations.